LIVINGSTON — The Park High football program will forfeit the remainder of its 2019 football season due to "the lack of enrollment in the football program", the school announced in a press release late Thursday.
Livingston will forfeit the remainder of its varsity football season per e-mail from Park AD.— NWMTA (@NWMTA) September 6, 2019
Livingston was down to 15 underclassmen (four seniors) after last Friday's 55-0 loss at Lewistown, and 35 total players are in the program, according to Livingston athletic director Regina Wood. The Montana High School Association's 2017-18 enrollment numbers had Park High at 447 total students.
The Rangers were scheduled to play host to Sidney at 4 p.m. Saturday in a Class A matchup. The schools' junior varsity teams will play as scheduled. Sidney and every other varsity team on Livingston's schedule this season will be awarded a win for the game they would have played against the Rangers, per Sidney AD Chris Lee.
"Student safety remains a priority in the Livingston School District," the release said. "With the safety of players at the forefront, coaches and high school administrators considered student numbers, student injuries and avoiding future injuries. We are concerned about the reality of 14-year-old boys on the field competing against 18- and 19-year-old young men. Additionally, between current injuries, inexperience, and the low number of upperclassmen, we are unable to field a competitive varsity team."
Livingston coaches and administrators started discussing the possibility of forfeiting the season after last week's Lewistown game, where multiple Rangers suffered injuries. Players who transferred or decided not to play football were among the other factors that led to the team's low numbers, per Wood, Rangers first-year head football coach Nick Coate and Livingston's co-principals Lynne Scalia and Lori Dust.
"Our numbers, when we started the season, were pretty good, but we had certain circumstances where they started to drop," Dust said over the phone Friday. "We are researching and doing what we need to do to build the program."
Wood and Coate believe the Rangers have gone through eight head football coaches in 16 years.
The school said the JV program will continue throughout the fall, and all 15 upperclassmen are eligible to play at that level.
"Steps being taken to communicate with all stakeholders include ongoing contact with activities directors in the Eastern A Division schools and representatives from the Montana High School Association as well as discussion with upperclassmen parents and players," the release continued. "Coaches have held an all-team meeting to discuss Park High Football for the remainder of 2019 and beyond."
Livingston also forfeited games at the beginning of the 2016 season, the same year Class AA Missoula Hellgate canceled its season. Wood, Dust and Scalia cited the Hellgate example as a reason for optimism with their football program. Hellgate's varsity program returned in 2017, snapped a 57-game losing streak last Sept. 21 and won again a week later.
Dust called Livingston's forfeited season "a reset."
"We’re all disappointed, but we’re optimistic," she said. "We’re completely confident in the direction we’re going."